Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught
This is the first of a two-part series about recently-published books, mostly nonfiction.
--"President Carter: The White House Years" by Stuart E. Eizenstat (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, $40) is an intimate and insightful view of this underrated president and on how the presidency works. Serving as Chief Domestic Policy Adviser, the author was at President Carter's side in hundreds of meetings. Eizenstat draws on more than 7,500 pages of notes and 350 interviews of all the major figures that he had every meeting during Carter Administration to write a comprehensive history about the late 1970s. The 1,000-page hardcover also discusses Carter’s many missteps, including the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and explains the former president wanted to do the right thing, not for political reasons, which often hurt him and alienated Congress. Wrote former high-ranking government official James A. Baker III, who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, "Jimmy Carter was one of the most intriguing, and often-times misunderstood, presidents in U.S. history....(The book) provides an in-depth and inside look at the successes and failures of our nation’s 39th President. It is a compelling read for all interested in this period of American history."
--"The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last" by Tom Peters (Vintage Books, $17) is another remarkable book by legendary business management guru. Peters writes that nothing beats a high-quality product or service, designed and delivered by people who are as dedicated to each other as they are to their shared goal. For a long time, the author has been preaching that businesses need to put people first, and in today's rapidly changing environment, his message is even more important than ever. The new 460-page paperback -- published 35 years after Peters' international bestseller "In Search of Excellence" -- provides refreshing guidelines for success in the tech age that any business leader can immediately implement.
--"Movie Nights with the Reagans: A Memoir" by Mark Weinberg (Simon Schuster, $28) is an interesting, behind-the-scences look inside the Ronald Reagan presidency. The author -- who was a former advisor, speechwriter and and press secretary to President Reagan for eight years -- shares intimate stories about the Reagans as told through the movies they watched together at Camp David. Weinberg traveled to Camp David on weekends with the Reagans and he was one of a few select members invited into the Aspen Lodge where the First Family screened both contemporary and classic movies. In the 261-page book, each chapter discusses a legendary film, what the Reagans thought of it, and provides anecdotes and untold stories about his family as well as the administration. In summary, it's a remarkable, nostalgic trip through the 1980s with the Reagans.
--"Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends" by Peter Schweizer (Harper, $28.99) is an investigative and explosive book which exposes the vast corruption by leading politicians such as President Obama, Mitch McConnell and his wife, and the presidential children who leverage their political power to enrich their family members and friends. The new 319-page hardcover is basically a follow-up to author's previous book, "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich." The author is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a team of investigative researchers and journalists, committed to exposing crony capitalism, misuse of taxpayer monies, and other government corruption and malfeasance.
--"Lady in Red: An Intimate Portrait of Nancy Reagan" by Sheila Tate (Crown Forum, $27) is a rare look into the personal life of the former First Lady. The readers will learn never-before-told stories, including intimate moments surrounding the assassination attempt on her husband, an exclusive interview with Mrs. Reagan's lead security Secret Service agent who has never spoken publicly before, among others. The author served as press secretary to Mrs. Reagan from 1981 to 1985, and remained in close contact with her after the Reagans returned home to California.
--"The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House" by Ben Rhodes (Random House, $30) is a fascinating portrait of Barack Obama presidency as the author spent nearly 10 years working with the President in various roles. The 450-page hardcover covers Obama from the early days of the 2008 presidential campaign to the final hours of the presidency and the remarkable story is also filled with powerful characters as Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates, to name a few. The author was a little-known writer and Washington outsider at the age 29 when he joined the White House.
--"The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s" by William I. Hitchcock (Simon and Schuster, $35) is a compelling examination of Dwight Eisenhower's presidency. For years, historians have regarded Eisenhower as an absentee, "do-nothing" president, but that judgment has changed. In a 2017 survey, presidential historians rated Eisenhower fifth on the list of great presidents, behind the top four of Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt. The 650-page insightful volume includes declassified material from the Eisenhower Library, the CIA and Defense Department as well as numerous unpublished documents. President Eisenhower, a former general, ended the Korean War, avoided a war in Vietnam, soothed relations with the Soviet Union after Stalin's death, advanced the agenda of civil rights for African Americans, among other accomplishments.
--"The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House” by Curt Smith (University of Nebraska Press, $29.95) is a detailed historical look at the relationship between the U.S. presidency and baseball. The 469-page hardcover tells a remarkable story that is filled with tidbits, quotes and anecdotes. The author is a baseball historian and former White House speechwriter who has written 17 books on sports and politics. "A great read for baseball fans and history buffs," wrote ex-White House official John Sununu.
--"Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from A Life in Intelligence" by James R. Clapper and Trey Brown (Viking, $30) is a well-written and candid memoir by the former Director of National Intelligence. He led the U.S. intelligence community through a period that included the raid on Osama bin Laden, the Benghazi attack, and Russia's influence during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Clapper is a familiar face who often appears on television, discussing current events related to intelligence as well as President Trump, who has criticized the author in recent months.
--"President Is Missing" by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Little, Brown & Company and Knopf, $30) is a thrilling novel that many readers have been waiting for. The big-name personalities -- a former president and a bestselling novelist -- have teamed to write a terrifying novel. The book begins with a threat with the enemies planning a disastrous attack, and the President becomes a suspect and then goes missing.
--"Faith: A Journey For All" by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, $25.99) is a moving reflection from one of the most spiritual, God-fearing U.S. presidents in history, sharing the lessons he has learned. President Carter describes how his faith has sustained him in happiness and disappointments, and how we may find it in our lives. Carter, a former Georgia governor who served as President from 1977 to 1981, is 93 years old and lives in Plains, Ga.
--"War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence" by Ronan Farrow (W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95) is a powerful story about the decline of U.S. diplomacy. The 392-page hardcover contains interviews with every former secretary of state alive, from Henry Kissinger (under Richard Nixon administration) to Rex Tillerson (under Donald Trump administration). The author -- who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who writes for The New Yorker and makes documentaries for HBO -- also discovered secret documents and interviewed hundreds of insiders ranging from whistleblowers to ambassadors to generals, spies, and warlords.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.